Sitting at a crude, wooden table, Margaret bit her lower lip, closed a book she had been journaling and stared down at some black and white photos. A momentary shadow behind her blocked the scalding Kamerun sun from streaming into her tent.
Her husband, Charles came up behind her and placed his sunburned hands on her shoulders. “Has God answered your prayer?”
“Yes, he said I got myself into this tangle and I can pretty much get myself out.”
He smiled. “Sounds pretty direct, no gray area in that answer.”
“For him, maybe; but not for me.” She ran her fingers through her damp-sweatened hair. “I’m so tired of their silly superstitions.”
“To you they are superstitions; to them it helps explain what they don’t understand.”
“They are so childlike in their beliefs.”
He knelt, looking look into her eyes. “But so were we once; believing in banshees. Remember?”
Margaret glanced back at the photo taken months ago, but delivered yesterday from the Port of Duala by a courier on the Nyong River. “We waited so long for the pictures to be developed. I thought Chief Dawodu would be pleased to see them.”
“They’ve never seen their likeness; and now they think their souls are locked in these photos.”
“Smoke and mirrors, is that all they believe?”
“Don’t be bitter.”
“I’m sorry; I’m just tired and disappointed.”
“In yourself or them?” His words hung in the air as he rose to take the photos from her hands. “Give yourself time; you have to meet them where they are.”
A gust of wind flapped the opening of the tent, exposing several neat grass huts outside. “You heard the courier; time is something these poor natives mayn’t have. There’re German guerrillas skulking about the jungle, killing women and children and kidnapping the men to help build their military operations.”
She rose to meet his eyes. “I hate this war; not just for the killings but for the time it steals.” Tears glistened. “God’s entrusted these souls to us, Charles and the war and superstition are stealing it away.”
He studied her. “And God said you could untangle all of this?”
“Don’t be glib. Only the photos; I don’t think he’s holding me accountable for the war as well.”
“Then why put it all upon yourself. God wants that no man shall perish. We're proclaiming the Gospel - their salvation does not depend upon us, but upon their on accord. These photos are but stumbling blocks; and this war but imminent death - providence common to all of us.”
She turned her head to the flap in the tent. “I always did act like God appointed me ruler of the world, didn’t I?”
He took her in his arms. “Always, but its one reason I love you so dearly.”
On of the photos slipped from his hands and fell into the slit of light from the tent opening. Margaret followed it with her eyes. “How did I ever deserve you, Charles?”
“By God’s grace alone,” he laughed.
As she bent to pick up the fallen photo, rifle shots fired out, mixed with screams. A bullet ripped through the tent knocking Charles back and over the table. Blood blossomed from his chest, showering her and the photos.
Shadows flickered at the tent opening. One of them stopped and entered. Cradling her husband’s body, she saw a guerrilla with his rifle aimed directly at her head.
Six months later, Sergeant Baker, of British reconnaissance was sent to investigate the massacre. In the same tent, at the same table, he read the last entry in Margaret’s journal:
April 20, 1915
The photos arrived from Duala yesterday, but Chief Dawodu seems frighten as if they hold a magical power – I believe they do; the same kind of magic God imprints on our hearts from the Bible to see him – to recall him.
While the film was being processed one of the chief’s daughters passed. I’d taken a picture of her earlier and gave it him to study – to remember. I pressed the photo from his eyes and then to his heart and then did the same with the Bible. I gave him a wooden cross to wear. I can only pray he understands.
Baker closed the diary. A Bible was nearby –several photos slipped inside. He took them out, absently brushing the rust-like stains covering them.
The entry of the tent darkened, a corporal entered, followed by a native wearing a wooden cross. The corporal saluted. “Sir, this is Chief Dawodu, he says he has something to tell you.”
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